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Amgen takes aim at cardio diseases with Arrowhead RNAi deal

Licenses two gene silencing programmes with up to $670m in the offing for the specialist
Amgen

Amgen has bolstered its cardiovascular pipeline by licensing two gene silencing therapies developed by Arrowhead Therapeutics in a deal valued at up to $670m.

RNA interference (RNAi) specialist Arrowhead pockets $56.5m upfront with another $617m in the offing if the two programmes make it to market and achieve sales targets.

One of the drugs - called RNAi ARC-LPA - is designed to reduce levels of lipoprotein(a), a well-known risk factor for atherosclerotic diseases such as coronary artery disease and stroke. The other RNAi therapy is for an "undisclosed genetically validated cardiovascular target," according to Amgen, which has taken an option on the drug.

In both agreements, Amgen will be wholly responsible for clinical development and commercialisation of the RNAi therapies, which will make use of a proprietary subcutaneous delivery system developed by Arrowhead.

To date there is no drug on the market that can specifically and directly reduce Lp(a), and while some data suggests other cholesterol drugs such as statins cut elevated levels after long-term use evidence is equivocal and limited.

Drugs that can directly affect Lp(a) are in the pipeline however. Most notably, Ionis subsidiary Akcea Therapeutics is developing IONIS-APO(a)Rx, an antisense candidate which has been shown to reduce levels of the biomarker by up to 90% in healthy volunteers with elevated Lp(a), as well as a companion drug called Ionis-APO(a)-LRx.

Last week, results of a phase II trial of the two drugs were published on The Lancet's website and revealed that they were effective at reducing Lp(a) - cutting it by 67% to 92% depending on dose - while also reducing other risk factors including LDL cholesterol, apolipoprotein B, and oxidized phospholipids.

Amgen is a recent entrant into the cardiovascular drugs arena, with recently-approved cholesterol-lowering drug Repatha (evolocumab) and heart failure drug Corlaner (ivabradine) spearheading its assault on the market.

This is not the first time it has bought in drugs to flesh out its cardiovascular R&D portfolio - last year it acquired Dezima Pharma in a deal valued at up to $1.25bn, adding an orally-active cholesterol inhibitor called TA-8995 in phase II trials.

Article by
Phil Taylor

30th September 2016

From: Research, Sales

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